There are many misconceptions about hypnosis. Put simply, hypnosis is when your focus is directed inwards on one thing, to the exclusion of all else, so can happen as often as when you day dream, for example, or when you watch a flickering flame in a fire and become lost in the moment, or when you become absorbed in a good book or film. Often people associate hypnosis with stage hypnosis where people are made to do silly things like pretend to be a chicken or bark like a dog! They appear to be in a sleep-like state, unaware of their actions or their surroundings. In fact, with hypnosis and hypnobirthing, you are fully in control of your actions all of the time. You can bring yourself out of hypnosis at any moment. You are also aware of your surroundings. You do not have to go into some deeply relaxed state for hypnosis to be effective. Equally, if you are so relaxed that you look and feel like you are asleep, hypnosis will work just as well. The subconscious mind is still listening to the words.
I describe hypnosis like a telescope into your mind. When you are in a relaxed state you become more suggestible to words. For example, using positive words about birthing during hypnosis, will help you to let go of any negative thoughts about birth that you might have acquired in life and be holding subconsciously. All thoughts are taken in by the brain and processed by the subconscious mind, which then has a chemical and physiological effect on the body at a cellular level. Last thing at night is a good time to have positive thoughts because you go to sleep processing them at a subconscious level.
We can look at the mind like an iceberg. The conscious mind, the brain, is the part of the iceberg that sits above the water responsible for only 5% of our behaviour, whereas the subconscious mind is the larger part of the iceberg beneath the surface, responsible for 95% of our behaviour. The conscious mind is the critical part of the mind, the here and now, the analytical and logical, whereas the subconscious mind is the instinctive part of our mind. It is the filing cabinet of all of our memories, experiences and beliefs held at a cellular level. It is responsible for our emotions, which explains why we can feel without really knowing why, and also for all the physiological functions of the body (regulating our heart rate, breathing, digestion etc.). The subconscious mind takes control of daily automatic movements without our conscious awareness for example driving yourself to work in the morning on autopilot.
Working directly with the subconscious mind through hypnosis can make profound changes mentally, emotionally and physically. It is the subconscious mind that we need to change if we have picked up phobias, fears, anxieties or bad habits on our journey through life. In the case of hypnobirthing, we are using hypnosis to unravel all of the negative thoughts that might be held at a subconscious level about birth to help women feel more at ease and calm as they approach their birthing day.
You can communicate effectively to the subconscious mind with imagery, which is why in hypnobirthing we use visualisations during birth to help the body. For example, the opening blossom to symbolise the cervix or the vaginal outlet opening, or inflating an imaginary balloon in the uterus during a surge/contraction.
For more information about Hypnobirthing, visit www.togetherbirthing.com.
Emma Harwood-Jones, Hypobirthing Practitioner, Together Birthing